Pats get upgraded draft pick

The 2011 draft choice that the New England Patriots received from the New Orleans Saints in a September trade for tight end David Thomas has been bumped up from a seventh-round pick to a sixth-round pick.

Although it wasn't announced when the deal was struck Sept. 5, the trade included conditions that upgraded the draft pick if Thomas reached certain performance marks.

The 26-year-old Thomas turned in the best season of his four-year career, playing in 15 games (eight starts) and totaling 35 receptions for 356 yards (10.2 avg.). His production as a No. 2 tight end and occasional fullback helped the Saints win their first Super Bowl championship.

Although far from stop-the-presses news, the upgraded selection is still good news for the Patriots, who have made 24 choices in the past two drafts and have 10 picks in 2011.

The selections in 2011 include two first-rounders (one from Oakland) and two second-rounders (one from Carolina).

Although sixth-round selections often don't make the final roster, the Patriots have struck gold in the round, namely with quarterback Tom Brady in 2000. Their sixth-round picks from 2009, long snapper Jake Ingram and defensive lineman Myron Pryor, both played significant roles as rookies.

The Patriots selected Thomas in the third round of the 2006 draft, and the former University of Texas standout never emerged as the team hoped, in part because of multiple foot injuries. From 2006 to 2008, he played in 35 games with 13 starts in New England (including playoffs), totaling 21 receptions for 261 yards and one touchdown.

Following his career year in 2009, Thomas signed a one-year tender as a restricted free agent to return to the Saints this season.

"David came to our team last season and proved invaluable, both as a receiver from the tight-end spot and also with his versatility and ability to fill in at fullback when we needed him to do that," Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said April 13 when Thomas re-signed. "He's a very talented young player and we look forward to more highly productive seasons to come from him."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.